LOOK HOW HAPPY HE IS!
Wow! I've really played a game of chicken plugging this. Okay: "Time Spanner", the thing whose progress I've been charting on this blog for the past ten years, finally had a pilot episode recorded in June, and was then broadcast on Radio 4 a month ago, which means you now have just one day left to listen to it, sorry.
And look who turned up to the recording!
Ben Moor! Ned Mond! Julia, Joel, Jason, Katy Wix!
(Wedding photographer: Stephen Evans)
Has it really been ten years in the making? This interview from September 2007 suggests not. Back then I appear to be contemplating a vehicle for myself about a homeless wedding planner, but what I realised soon afterwards was that if I wrote that then I would have to research wedding-planning, and I wasn't very interested in researching wedding planning so went instead for this sort of cosmic/science-fiction/fantasy... You know "Doctor Who"? That.
Beautiful pic for the Radio Times by Thomas Flintham
Of course it's not really "Doctor Who". (Carrrie Quinlan's got that gig sewn up.) Hopefully it rips off so many ideas from so many sources that I can't be fingered for any specific theft, but the real impetus is probably the comics I read in my teens, back when comics seemed to be doing something amazing, back when Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing" created a playground in which Peter Milligan's "Shade the Changing Man" could hang back on the benches coolly composing existential thought experiments with painted covers by Brendan McCarthy while the more popular kids like Gaiman's "Sandman" entered everything and won the gold - exactly the same impetus behind that strip I did about a slacker sent on a mission by an angel twenty years ago now that I think about it. Sorry. Obscure references. Bad.
Also, I wanted to write the show to which "Peaches En Regalia" was the theme tune.
Team Spanner photo by Amanda Bensonl to r: Jeremy Limb, me, David Mitchell, John Finnemore, London Hughes, Belinda Stewart-Wilson
So, yes, I'm sorry I haven't given you blog-readers much notice of this culmination and you'll probably want to listen to it three or four times. That's what all the cool dudes are doing - John suggests as much in this very nice piece - "John" as in John Finnemore who played Laika both in the finished thing and in that first read-through he let us perform in his flat six years ago. (Organising read-throughs was the only deadline I had for ever finishing a draft.) Also present at that first draft was Gareth Edwards, who is now the producer of the show. I suspect Gareth experienced even more ups and downs trying to get this commissioned than I did - for me this was always the dream, and you're a fool to be disappointed if you don't get your dream, but Gareth managed it...
Here's our Kraken. I had asked for Jon Hamm, but what are you going to do? It's worth mentioning that if it wasn't for David Mitchell I wouldn't be writing comedy at all (see that interview) and I certainly wouldn't have written this. In terms of getting the right people to pay attention he effectively joined Gareth as midwife for the last two years of this thing's birth.
Returning for a second to Jon Hamm, I love the motto of Mad Men creator Matt Weiner's: "Subtext is Pleasure". I was keen that the dialogue in Time Spanner should also sound pretty natural, organic even, leaving as many jokes unsaid as possible if that make sense, jokes that would appear more in the performing than in the reading. The problem with this of course is that commissioners don't perform scripts, they read them. They read them once, if that, and even if by some miracle they do correctly interpret every nuance and scripted fluff, the actors who end up having to perform the thing only get to spend an afternoon with it, there's no learning time, let alone rehearsal time - it's not bloody Shakespeare - and so the writer has to make it absolutely clear why people are saying what they're saying on that first read. It was David who suggested the blindingly obvious solutions: stage directions. Here's a tiny example:
All David's ideas were good. Here I think he's suggesting John be given a stool...
And here he is holding a script in front of his face because the character he is playing is on the other side of a door. John, as Laika, is urging my character on. I, as Martin, am literally miming holding a cup of tea because I'm new to this...
Oh yes. That name. "Martin".
I wanted - as we all want - something basically normal but a little unfortunate. The words "Martin Gay" came up in conversation eight years ago and I thought: Oo, bingo! It wasn't until two years into drafting that I realised I'd plumped for exactly the same name John had already chosen for his own feckless sitcom hero in "Cabin Pressure", which is why nobody in the episode ever actually addresses my character as "Martin".
London! Secret weapon. Gareth always said Gabbie was the key...
Here's another indicator of how long ago I started writing this: I was writing for Laurence and Gus when I first thought of Gabbie. Isy Suttie was in the cast and I thought she might make be a great fit but then, by total coincidence, she went and got cast as the disarming new love interest in Peepshow, "Dobbie". That long ago...
Auditioning actors for Gabbie might honestly be the most grown-up thing I've ever done. Everyone we saw gave beautiful, intelligent readings, but London Hughes was unique in actually reminding me who Gabbie was. I don't mean she reminded me of Gabbie. I mean she literally reminded me who the character was meant to be, and why Gareth was so right: there has to be a surplus energy to Gabbie that - again - you can't really put into words beyond the stage direction "enthusiatically", an energy without which very little Martin does in this episode really makes sense. So we were very lucky with London. If you want more of her - and of course you do - try here.
And completing the team, second from left, the unweildily talented Jeremy Limb, from The Trap and music. You can hear his own science fiction comedy epic Event Horizon Crescent here. If "Time Spanner" is a baby I always wanted Jeremy to be Godfather. In the Green Room before the recording as final tweaks to my script were being made it occurred to me how lucky I was to be in probably one of the best writers' rooms ever assembled, so thanks again to Gareth and all the cast for keeping me company. And thanks to everyone who came to the read-throughs and played the roles and helped them exist a bit more. And thanks again to John Finnemore who always seemed to love this thing in all its forms. Which meant it was probably good. Which meant I stuck at it.
Have I missed anything? OH! THE LINK! Here.
(And you can like it on here too.)
((And also broadcast that same belated epiphany was Now The Twelfth Night Show, which I loved appearing in, and which you also have a day left to listen to.))
UPDATE: This tumblr account has very usefully uploaded it to listen to whenever you like HERE.